03/20/2013 12:40 am ET Updated May 19, 2013

Day 20: 31 Days of Daily Inspiration From Brilliant Women

Daily Inspiration: Day 20 of 31 Days

"Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us more effectively. Look for the learning." -- Louisa May Alcott (author, 1832-1888)

I believe that difficult things happen so we can learn from them. I don't believe this because I know it to be true -- how can I? -- but because, a long time ago, I decided it'd be the best way to look at life. In my 20s I had a bit of bad luck involving a nasty life-threatening blood clot and a chimney stack that landed on my head. At the time I was studying at Oxford and quite miserable. I loved the subject, but the atmosphere was highly-pressured (one of my friends dropped out, another had a nervous breakdown) and I soon lost my sense of self.

When those two accidents happened, instead of feeling sorry and wishing they hadn't, I decided to see them as wake-up calls. It was time to stop taking Oxford University so seriously. It was time to put things into perspective. I started having fun, making more friends, helping other stressed-out students, doing yoga. I started writing fiction.

When it comes to life lessons, some of us only need small nudges and others off us need to be knocked -- literally in my case -- over the head. Either way, when life isn't going the way you want it to, looking for the lesson in it can be a good place to start.

Inspiration From Brilliant Women

For more by Menna van Praag, click here.

For more inspirational quotes, click here.

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